Volleyball to face defending national champions at the Husker Invite

Freshman outside hitter Kalina Smith jumps to spike the ball at the CMU volleyball game against Akron on Oct. 21 in McGuirk Arena.

One of the biggest tests of the entire season awaits the Central Michigan volleyball team this weekend as the Chippewas travel to Lincoln, Nebraska for the annual Husker Invite.

The invitational marks the end of the 12-game nonconference schedule, with Mid-American Conference play beginning Sept. 20 against Eastern Michigan.

CMU opens the weekend against the host team and defending national champions Nebraska (6-1), one of the most historically dominant forces in college volleyball in addition to matches against Missouri State (5-5) and New Mexico (4-4). 

Ranked fourth in the nation, the Cornhuskers are coming off their fifth NCAA championship in school history. Nebraska has lost just 11 matches over the past three seasons, being crowned national champions two of those three seasons (2015, 2017).

With a maximum capacity of nearly 8,000 in their home arena and a dedicated fanbase, assistant coach Krista Rice is excited to give the team an opportunity to compete against the nation's in a Big Ten environment.

"We're going in with the anticipation of providing an experience for our players to play against a really solid team," Rice said. "There's not any other volleyball environment like at Nebraska."

Game one against Nebraska is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start on Sept. 14. While the Nebraska match looms as the most challenging of the three, Rice was quick to let the opener overshadow the rest of the weekend.

"I think that because Nebraska is number four, it's viewed as the biggest one," she said. "Both Missouri State and New Mexico are similar to MAC teams. Those are two winnable games."

CMU will play game two against Missouri State at 6 p.m Sept. 14 and close out the tournament against New Mexico at 12:30 p.m on Sept. 15.

Following last weekend's performance in the Sycamore Invitational where the Chippewas finished 1-2 with a win against Indiana State, Rice hopes to see the kind of tenacity in her team that showed throughout the weekend. 

"I thought we did a really good job of staying in the fight, which is some thing we've been talking about with our team," Rice said. "Regardless of how we're playing at any given moment, we need to fight hard for every single point that we have."